For pets in Stockton, heartworm disease is a condition that can result in heart failure, severe lung disease, damage to other organs and even death. Here, our vets explain why prevention is key.
What Is Heartworm Disease?
Heartworm disease is spread through mosquito bites and is primarily caused by a parasitic worm called Dirofilaria immitis.
Pets including dogs, cats and ferrets may become definitive hosts, which means that the worms live inside the animal then mature into adults, mate and produce offspring. The name of this disease comes from the fact that the worms live in the heart, lungs and blood vessels of an infected pet.
What Are the Symptoms of Heartworm Disease?
Symptoms of heartworm disease typically don't appear until the disease is advanced. The most common symptoms of heartworm disease include swollen abdomen, coughing, fatigue, weight loss and difficulty breathing.
How Does My Vet Check My Pet for Heartworms?
Heartworm proteins can't be detected until about five months (at the earliest) after an animal is bitten by an infected mosquito. Your vet can complete blood tests to detect heartworm proteins (antigens), which are released into the animal's bloodstream.
What If My Pet Is Diagnosed with Heartworms?
If your pet is diagnosed with heartworms, your vet will have treatment options available. FDA-approved melarsomine dihydrochloride is a drug that contains arsenic and kills adult heartworms. Melarsomine dihydrochloride is administered via injection into your pet's back muscles in order to treat the disease.
Topical FDA-approved solutions are also available, and these can help to get rid of parasites in the bloodstream when applied directly to the animal's skin.
However, it's important to keep in mind that heartworm disease treatment can have major side effects and might be poisonous to your pet. Not only that, but treatment is costly because of the several trips to the veterinarian, bloodwork, hospitalization, X-rays and injections required. This is why we believe that the best treatment for heartworm illness is prevention.
How Can I Prevent My Pet from Getting Heartworm Disease?
To avoid heartworm illness, it's critical to maintain your pet on preventive medicine. We urge that dogs be tested for heartworms every year, even if they are already on heartworm prevention medication.
Heartworm prevention is safer, easier and much more affordable than treating the progressed disease. A number of heartworm preventive medications can also help protect against other parasites such as hookworms, whipworms and roundworms.